After a very stressful journey from Cambodia (fretting about our visas for weeks), we waltzed into Vietnam ecstatically! We were staying just off Pham Ngu Lao Street which was super busy and full of great restaurants and street food (which is a must try here in Southeast Asia). As we had just arrived we grabbed some dinner, caught the Formula 1 and headed straight to bed! The next day we woke up ready to explore this city which we had heard was full of great architecture – and it didn’t disappoint!
Before starting our city walk we headed to the War Remnants Museum to understand more about Vietnam’s history. We found heading to museums on your first few days gives such an insight into where you’re staying and how it has developed over the years. This museum was very interesting and extremely eye opening. I was very interested in the photography section of the museum as my degree is in photography; it was very moving seeing such heartbreaking photographs that I had learnt so much about being showcased where they were taken. After our history lesson we decided to head out and see the difference between the new and the old architecture popping up in the city.
Some of my favourite architecture was around the French quarters where they have their own version of the Notre Dame, on a much smaller scale for sure! In comparison I loved the modern Bitexco Financial Tower as it reminded me of the Stark tower in Avengers! Close to the modern section of the city there is also an old apartment block that has been turned into shops and cafes which is such a great reuse of an old building. You can find it by locating the ‘Cafe Apartments.’
Exhausted from walking around it was time to try my first iced Vietnamese coffee which I had heard so much about. Made with condensed milk and coconut milk, it was incredible. No other coffee can ever come close, safe to say it began my addiction!
It was time to move on from Ho Chi Minh and our next destination was Da Nang. Situated quite a drive away we decided to catch a flight instead which actually worked out to be around the same price as an overnight bus. We arrived at our home stay which had the nicest hosts and took a walk around the town. There isn’t necessarily much to see in Da Nang on ‘bucket lists’ but we headed to the famous Cau Rong; The Dragon Bridge. It is famous for having smoke pump out of the dragon’s mouth on certain days. We ended the day with a spot of traditional Vietnamese food which was delicious! If you can find it, order tofu in lemon grass or tomato sauce!
The main reason we were in Da Nang is because we wanted to go to Ba Na Hills. Originally designed as a French resort, the old villas and castles have been neglected and in its place there is a new French theme park resort, home to the famous Golden Hand Bridge. Surrounded by lush countryside, to get up to the resort you have to take cable cars. Long and high cable cars; some of which have received world records! Once up in the sky, Ba Na Hills has something for everyone; French style cafes and restaurants, an indoor amusement park, an alpine coaster, and flower gardens. Most people come to visit the Golden Hand Bridge which makes it appear as though the hands are coming out of the earth. A visit to the hills is definitely something you should add to your list if you are in Vietnam. To get to them, order a private car to drive you and pick you up or you can book onto a bus tour online which can include your ticket entrance.
Our next stop in Vietnam was Hoi An. We grabbed a local bus (after some confusion) and made the hour journey to what became my favourite place ever. We were staying just outside of the old town in a little place called ‘Mango Homestay’ so we could walk in and out of the old town very easily but could also head to the beach. Hoi An was honestly beautiful. Almost every building was yellow (my fave colour) and lanterns hung across the quaint little streets. Even the shops were lovely, with lots of independent markets selling gifts and trinkets. My favourites were Sunday and Artbook. If we were going home after this I would need another suitcase! You can also get a multitude of things made my local tailors, I had some sandals hand made which I adored!
We walked around the town for hours, stopping for some more of Vietnam’s coffee and then happy hours by the river! Across the river from the main old town is also home to the night markets which pop up most nights!
The best time to visit the old town is the morning, barely anyone is there, no big tour groups have arrived yet and you can cycle through all the lanes to avoid shopping and spending money!
The next day was super sunny so we rented some bicycles and headed to the beach for a day of reading and relaxing. The ride doesn’t take long and takes you through the rice paddies which were beautiful!
As sad as I was to leave Hoi An I will definitely be back. Our next stop was Hue; this is when lots of people take the famous Hai Van pass on motorbikes as it is one of the most scenic journeys in Vietnam. We decided to skip that as I wasn’t keen on motorbikes and the train was soooo much cheaper! We were pleasantly surprised with how scenic the train journey was anyway and it took us straight to the centre of Hue.